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Karabakh Armenians leave for Armenia en masse

Ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh on Sunday began to leave the region en masse by car after Azerbaijan won the conflict, Reuters reported.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s leadership told Reuters that 120,000 Armenians in the region have refused to live as part of Azerbaijan for fear of ethnic persecution.

According to the news agency, people with fuel began moving along the Lachin corridor towards the border with Armenia. The Armenian government informed that as of Sunday 22:00 (18:00 GMT), 1,050 people had crossed into Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh.

Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but was previously outside its control. Local ethnic Armenians were forced to conclude a ceasefire last week after a 24-hour military operation by superior Azerbaijani military forces.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars over Karabakh territory in 30 years, with Azerbaijan regaining territory in and around Nagorno-Karabakh in a six-week conflict in 2020.

However, Armenians do not believe in security guarantees once the region is joined to Azerbaijan. David Babayan, an adviser to the president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh, Samvel Shahramanyan, called the situation a disgrace.

Ninety-nine point nine percent prefer to leave our historic lands. The fate of our poor people will go down in history as a disgrace and a shame for the Armenian people and for the whole civilised world. Those responsible for our fate will one day have to answer before God for their sins.

Karabakh Armenian leaders said Russian peacekeepers would escort anyone wishing to leave the region to Armenia. The country claimed 377 refugees had arrived by Sunday evening.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has faced demands to resign over his inability to save Karabakh. Addressing the nation, he noted the provision of some aid as well as the inevitability of a mass exodus.

“If proper conditions are not created for the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh to live in their homes and there are no effective protection mechanisms against ethnic cleansing, the likelihood is rising that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh will see exile from their homeland as the only way to save their lives and identity.”

The situation over Nagorno-Karabakh could affect the balance of power in the entire South Caucasus region, where Russia, the United States, Turkey and Iran are vying for influence.

Azerbaijan’s victory last week seems to have put an end to one of the long-standing conflicts breaking out with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated his “iron fist” had put an end to the idea of an independent ethnic Armenian Karabakh, promising the region would turn into a “paradise.”

The Armenian side claimed more than 200 people were killed and 400 wounded during the Azerbaijani military operation.

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